The trophies all lined up ready to be handed to the winners of the SimpliFlying Social Media Awards – Photo: Artstudio23.com
On a recent flight from Seattle to Phoenix I did something that has become more common. My flight was delayed and I conversed with the airline via Twitter to see if there was anything I could do to make my now-25-minute connection. Had the airline not had a presence on Twitter, I could have been stranded. This was not a first though for me; I often deal with the airline social media teams to get situations handled, or to help with a booking. Social media and airlines seem to go hand-in-hand lately, but what airlines have the best social media presence?
October saw a selection of travel social media heavyweights all gathered for the 4th Annual SimpliFlying Social Media awards in Amsterdam. Over 37,000 votes were collected for the evening’s events to choose the winners.
There are many airline take off videos out there, but not too many that are able to catch a take off head on. Blog reader SpeedbirdHD got this video of a KLM Boeing 747-400 (PH-BFO) taking off from Amsterdam (AMS).
Delta Air Lines Airbus A330 with a KLM Boeing 747-400 in the background in Amsterdam.
This was my last leg of my RwandAir adventure. I had already flown from Seattle to Rwanda in a 737 and just completed a 10 hour flight from Kigali, Rwanda to Amsterdam on a KLM A330. I was already pretty tired and wasn’t sure how my mind, body and spirit would do on another ten hour ride in a different A330. On the positive side, I was looking forward to comparing two international Airbus A330s back-to-back. Overall, I have to say I like the Northwest Delta Air Lines A330 long haul premium economy a bit better than KLM’s.
When arriving into Amsterdam, I had a three hour layover and I was hoping to check out their observation deck. Before plane spotting, I needed to do some charging of my laptop and cell phone, since my last ten hour flight did not have in-seat power and neither would my next one. The classic hunt for an open outlet was on.
I started down the concourse looking from side to side. I kept going and going and… well, going. Seriously? After 45 minutes looking up and down concourses D, E and F, I found an outlet about seven feet up for vending machines, one in the bathroom, one on a fire hose holder and one on a center pillar in a crowded walkway. I choose to deal with the crowds and sat down on the floor (looking like an idiot by the way) by the pillar, plugged in my phone and then… nothing. Sweet, this outlet did not work. Now the debate was did I want to look like even more of an idiot standing in the bathroom charging my phone, climbing on a vending machine or using an outlet on a fire hose that might cause some alarm to go off. I figured my best bet was with the fire hose and luckily it worked. The bad part was it took so long to juice up, that I wasn’t able to check out the observation deck – save it for next time I guess.
Delta Economy Comfort seat on an Airbus A330.
I figured I might as well head to the gate, where I received my first body scan. We had to wait in a small waiting area at the gate for our flight, which had little entertainment before being able to board. I was sitting in Delta Economy Comfort, which gave me four additional inches of seat pitch, 50% more recline, priority boarding and free alcohol. You also sit near the front of the plane, which means you are first to customs after arriving in Seattle. .
Even with the extra four inches, I was unable to fully stretch out my legs since there was a huge in-flight entertainment box under my seat, negating the extra leg room. You would think with a large electrical box like that under your seat, they would at least give you an outlet, but there was none. Reading on SeatGuru.com, it looks like only Business Class has outlets. Good thing I did some charging during my layover.
One nice surprise was seeing an air vent in the overhead bin. I absolutely love my air vents, since I am normally hot and that little breeze can make a huge difference. Sure, most domestic aircraft have air vents, but I am finding more and more long haul Boeing 747, 777, Airbus A330/A330 and the A380 are lacking them.
During both legs (KGL to AMS and AMS to SEA), I had window seats. When flying on the KLM A330, I noticed that there was quite a bit of room between the seat and the wall and was wishing the outer arm rest would raise, allowing me access to that extra room. It was too bad that the armrest would not rise on the KLM A330, but it did rise on Delta’s. This gave me an extra three inches or so of seat width and I was starting to get the feeling that this might be a good flight. Unfortunately we ran into some trouble pretty quickly.
Taking off from Amsterdam.
After boarding we were told there would be a delay. It turns out that the amount of fuel that the truck indicated being pumped into the aircraft, didn’t match the A330’s gauges. Delays can be annoying, but I am willing to wait to make sure we have enough fuel — I am old fashioned like that. It took about an hour to determine that the truck had the failure and after all the paperwork was completed, we took off.
When getting my free headphones given by Delta out of their plastic bag I accidently ripped one of the wires. Not a big deal, I figured I could just ring the call button and quickly get a new one. I decided to try something new; time how long it would take for a flight attendant to assist me after ringing the call button. I decided I would make eye contact with a flight attendant walking by, but I would not say anything like “excuse me,” to put them to the test.
I rang the call button and waited. And waited. And holy crap waited some more. At the 10 minute mark I turned off my call light and rang it again. During those ten minutes I had two different flight attendants walk by, but they did not stop… they did not even make eye contact. At the 15 minute mark I turned off my call light and rang it again. Another flight attendant walked by, but still nothing. I could see that my call light was on and the “ding” noise was definitely making its sound.
At about 18 minutes a flight attendant came by for trash. I was waiting for her to ask me about my light, but she didn’t. I decided I really wanted to start watching a movie, so I asked her for another head phone set, which she got right away. I am not normally one who uses the call button and I have never timed it before, but I am pretty certain that 18 minutes and three flight attendants walking by is not okay. It takes a lot to get me annoyed or frustrated on a flight and this definitely did it.
OH YES! The armrest near the window moves, giving me more room.
When trying to relax, the recline of the Economy Comfort was great. However, when the person in front of me was enjoying their extra 50% recline, it was not so great – actually pretty annoying. I am normally one that doesn’t recline my seat, since I do not want to disturb the person behind me, but I really had to recline a bit to open my laptop, even with the extra four inches.
During the flight, I was served two different meals. One was your standard airline pasta, but the second was pizza. Both of them were pretty decent and I thought it was pretty slick having pizza on the plane. I really didn’t get to enjoy all the amenities in the flight, since I slept through most of it. Having the ability to raise my outer armrest really gave me one of my best economy sleeps with someone sitting next to me. I landed in Seattle feeling a lot better than I thought I would after 24 hours of economy flight.
As you might know, I am not a fan of body scanners. They provide a false sense of security, violate your privacy, cost too much money and are easy to avoid. Even with all my travels, I have been proud being able to avoid a scan or pat down. In the US, the TSA makes it simple to choose a line that is not operating a body scanner. It is satisfying knowing that the TSA were not the ones that finally got me; it was the security at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS). Guess what? I am okay with it.
Security at Amsterdam is much better and thorough than anything I have experienced while traveling in the US. First off, there was a security check at the actual gate. Meaning they are dealing with a smaller group of people, where they can spend more time with each passenger. First, everyone has their passport and boarding pass reviewed, then scanned. Next, passengers stand one on one with a security person as they ask you questions about who you are, where you are going, etc. They are checking how you react and if any flags are raised to cause additional scrutiny. I was only asked a few questions and able to go, but many were there for much longer. It seems smart to have trained employees to detect any issues with an individual. I am guessing that they are paid more than your average TSA employee — and for good reason.
After your talk, it is time to have your bags and body scanned. Much like in the US, you place your bags on a belt, but in this case there was no avoiding the body scanner. Every passenger is required to go through the body scanner. That’s right… No picking or choosing which line to go through.
The security officers welcomed me into the body scanner and asked me how I was doing. This wasn’t some trick to see if I was a “bad guy,” this was just customer service.
I lifted my hands, the scanner went on and was nicely asked to exit the machine. Unlike in the US, where a mysterious person is hiding somewhere viewing your image, I could see my image right outside the scanner, but I was not worried. It was not an image of my naked body, but a representation of my body (think stick figure) and it indicated that I had something on my waist. I was told by the security guard that he needed to pat me down and he gently confirmed it was my belt and off I went.
If an airport or nation is going to operate body scanners, this is how it should be done. Yes, money has been spent on them, but they are also spending money on trained people who are actually friendly. Everyone was required to be scanned and I never felt that my privacy was being violated. If the TSA would move towards this model, maybe we could be friends.